Bob Dylan Vinyl, CD & tapes by Bob Dylan at Norman Records
With his idiosyncratic delivery and voice sometimes likened to a petrol lawnmower starting up, it’s easy to see why Bob Dylan isolated a good portion of the folk scene he was trying to infiltrate. His early records were fairly on brand and could be sat alongside the likes of Woody Guthrie and Dave Van Ronk as new folk that took enough from the old to keep the traditionalists on board. But in 1965 Dylan started playing a (gasp) electric guitar and all hell broke loose. More on that later...
His self titled debut though mainly consisted of Dylan strumming his guitar and wheezing a harmonica along to folk and gospel standards, but there was an extraordinary leap between this and his follow up The Freewheeling Bob Dylan which was packed with originals including 'Blowin’ in the Wind' and 'A Hard Rain’s a Gonna Fall'. At the age of 22 Dylan had already written his first classic. His songs were now politically aware protest songs that would soon be picked up by other more commercially leaning artists - a pattern which would continue over the next few years on the subsequent 'The Times They Are A Changin’' (even more political) and Another Side of Bob Dylan. The latter was a more personal and reflective album that saw Dylan write some of the songs later made famous by electric folk pioneers the Byrds. Aptly this was the moment Dylan ditched his folk roots and became a bona fide pop star (rather than folk troubadour). Bringing it All Back Home not only saw him use electric instruments for the first time but began his more freeform, surrealist style of songwriting. The folk lovers weren’t happy but Dylan was onto something. His 1965 single 'Like A Rolling Stone' was a stunning example of what pop music could be - a six minute blast of electric mayhem that surely influenced subsequent mini-masterpieces such as 'Good Vibrations' and 'Born to Run'. It was famously roared through by Dylan and his band at the Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall after a (some overly dramatic) audience members shouted ‘Judas’ at him.
Dylan’s extraordinary workrate and musical development had to come to an end sometime and he used his recovery from a motorbike accident to slow himself down and take a sabbatical. The albums he eventually returned with were more low key and somewhat back to his folk roots. The experimentation and drive had left him probably for good and his quality control became more spotty - “What is this shit?” said journalist Greil Marcus in his review of Dylan’s despairing 1970 effort 'Self Portrait'. He embraced Christianity, made some terrible music but returned with a pair of brilliant mid ‘70s albums Blood On The Tracks and Desire to show that he wasn’t quite done yet. Both seemed inspired by his marriage breakdown, and the latter is a stunning example of Dylan’s song story style with each track a long freeform narrative. After a period of not playing his old songs due to his Christianity (went down pretty well with fans I imagine), Dylan seems to have spent the remainder of his existence on a Never Ending Tour. With vocals that redefined the word croaky, he and his band give a nightly massacre to his back catalogue to the delight of fans everywhere. He’s made scores of albums since - good, bad, indifferent but is still a much-loved wily and eccentric elder statesman of rock music - his wild days behind him and a back catalogue to kill for.